My job in Paris has permitted me to have less time-off than in previous years, so I’ve been impatient to get out and see the long list of places I’d planned on visiting this summer. One of those spots was Buly (6 rue Bonaparte) a new/old perfumerie and beauty store that feels like you’ve stepped back in time the minute you cross the threshold. The official name of the shop is L’Officine universelle Buly. The word officine (o-fee-seen) means “dispensary.” Buly 1803 represents a return to the origins of beauty products when they were made in small batches by your local pharmacist instead of by international conglomerates.
In 1803, Jean-Vincent Bully, a perfumer and cosmetician, opened his boutique in Paris. His most famous product was a perfume unappealingly known as vinaigre de Bully. Bully’s business was destroyed in the political uprising of 1830, but others continued to produce vinaigre de Bully into the 20th century.
Early this year, a new boutique Buly 1803 opened its doors after three years of work to create an environment that appears to have been here for 200 years. (The owners, husband and wife team Victoire de Taillac and Ramdane Touhami dropped one “l” from the original name to avoid confusion with the English word “bully.”) A few years ago, the couple found a Bully catalogue at an auction. Enchanted with the detailed illustrations, they decided to re-launch the brand.
Shopping here is a delight for your senses. First, there is the sense that you are stepping into an apothecary shop with beautiful paneling. terra cotta tiled floors, marble counters and labeled jars, second, there is the lovely mixed aroma of the Buly products, and finally, the classical music in the background completes the mood.
The salewomen know their products – mainly perfumes, skin care, and candles – but they aren’t at all pushy. The products are attractively labeled and displayed in artistic vignettes. The perfumes are water-based, so they won’t stain your clothing or react with sunlight, nor do you need to wait for the alcohol to burn off to get the true fragrance. The skin care products are free of artificial ingredients, but they aren’t particularly revolutionary – variations on toners and moisturizers do abound in the world, after all. I bought the Lait Nettoyant (facial cleanser) and the rose-scented Eau Superfine (toner), seen the the photo above. Both products have a lovely fragrance and are gentle on my skin. Still, I predict that due to the pleasure of shopping there, Buly 1803 will be around for a while – maybe even 200 more years.